By Sarah Hinckley
SWANS ISLAND — After fulfilling multiple emergency volunteer roles over the last 15 years, Charlie Wiegle, 52, received a certificate of recognition by the Maine Islands Coalition.
Wiegle joined the Swans Island Volunteer Fire Department after he and his wife moved there a little over 15 years ago from Pennsylvania. He soon became the island’s emergency management director. Most recently, he underwent training to become an EMT.
In March of this year, Wiegle used that training to save the life of a neighbor.
He saw a 64-year-old lobsterman going into cardiac arrest in a skiff nearby. The skiff was tied to the dock, and Wiegle hopped aboard to begin CPR. It was the first time he had done so since going through training.
“It was like, ‘Oh, God’, but I knew what to do,” Wiegle said of the hourlong ordeal that ended in a LifeFlight helicopter ambulance ride off the island. “Because we are out here on an island, we have to sometimes make decisions that aren’t all that fun to make.”
Wiegle made all the right decisions that day, and his neighbor, fully recovered, recently returned home.
“He came up to me to thank me, which surprised me,” Wiegle said. “It was very heartfelt.”
Swans Island relies on volunteers for all emergency situations. There are approximately a dozen volunteer firefighters on the force and currently five EMTs. Not all of them are on the island during the day, which means the responsibility falls on those present. Last summer, Swans Island fielded an unusually high volume of calls during the summer months.
“We’re hoping it’s not a precursor to this summer,” said Wiegle, who works as a contractor on the island and doesn’t consider his actions noteworthy. “In a small town, everyone needs to step up.”
The Maine Islands Coalition was organized in 2003 to provide a voice for islands to state legislators, the press and outside groups, according to a press release.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Wiegle’s name. The Islander apologizes for the error.